Gordon Hayward's Role with the Thunder: A Puzzling Playoff Performance

WriterEthan Johnson

2 May 2024

News
Gordon Hayward's Role with the Thunder: A Puzzling Playoff Performance
  • Key takeaway one: Gordon Hayward's leadership is solid, but his on-court contributions for Oklahoma City have been minimal.
  • Key takeaway two: In the playoffs, Hayward's playing time and impact significantly decreased, raising questions about his fit.
  • Key takeaway three: Hayward's future contributions depend on his ability to adapt and assert himself offensively, especially from beyond the arc.

Gordon Hayward was brought to Oklahoma City to be a veteran leader and a viable bench option late in the season. His leadership has been solid, and he seems to fit in well with the team, but his on-court contributions have been puzzling.

In 26 games with the Thunder, the former All-Star averaged just 5.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 17 minutes per game. He shot 45.3% from the floor and 51.7% from the 3-point line, although he attempted just 1.1 triples per game. His efficiency and consistency allowed him to stay in the lineup, and he was usually one of the first players off the bench.

In the playoffs, however, it has been a different story. Hayward played in all four games against the Pelicans but recorded just 7:45 minutes per game on average. He didn’t record a single point across all four games and only took one shot. He played fine defense and was a solid rebounder, but didn’t offer much else on the floor.

His minutes were mostly given to Aaron Wiggins, who tallied an average of 15 minutes per game. The biggest difference in the series though, is that Oklahoma City played more traditionally with Jaylin Williams as the backup big man instead of attempting to run a small ball lineup. With Wiggins, Isaiah Joe, and Cason Wallace, Hayward seemed to be the odd one out.

Could that change in round two? It depends. Because the Clippers don’t have a backup center receiving more than 12 minutes, he could see an uptick in small-ball lineup minutes. If it’s the Mavericks though, playing against Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively doesn’t offer many opportunities.

If he gets another shot in the rotation, it’s clear what he needs to do to stick. Hayward has to be more assertive on the offensive end and take the shots that the defense gives him. Despite being a former No. 1 option on a playoff team, he has been timid and still seems to be searching for his role. He also must knock down open 3-pointers. Oklahoma City’s drive and kick offense relies on corner shooters, and he can excel by forcing defenders to step out on him.

The Thunder found success with younger wings in round one, and that could be the case moving forward. But Hayward will likely get another look soon, and has to take advantage of it.

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About the author
Ethan Johnson
Ethan Johnson
About

Ethan Johnson is a seasoned writer with a deep passion for American basketball. His engaging writing style and insightful analysis have made him a go-to source for NBA enthusiasts. Known for his witty commentary and in-depth coverage, Ethan brings a fresh perspective to the world of sports journalism.

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